Series: A Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler Novel: Book One
Author: Russ Thomas
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House
Length: 368 Pages
Category: Mystery/Suspense, Investigative Procedural
At a Glance: If you love a good mystery and investigative procedural with plenty of twists, turns, and intrigue, Firewatching is a sure bet. Simply put, there’s nothing I didn’t love about this book.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When financier Gerald Cartwright disappeared from his home six years ago, it was assumed he’d gone on the run from his creditors. But then a skeleton is found bricked up in the cellar of Cartwright’s burned-out mansion, and it becomes clear Gerald never left alive.
As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is not expected to get results, but he knows this is the case that might finally kick start his floundering career. Luckily, he already has a suspect. Unluckily, that suspect is Cartwright’s son, the man Tyler slept with the night before.
Keeping his possible conflict-of-interest under wraps, Tyler digs into the case alongside Amina Rabbani, an ambitious young Muslim constable and a fellow outsider seeking to prove herself on the force. Soon their investigation will come up against close-lipped townsfolk, an elderly woman with dementia who’s receiving mysterious threats referencing a past she can’t remember, and an escalating series of conflagrations set by a troubled soul intent on watching the world burn . . .
Review: There’s little more gratifying than finding a new author and then being able to say, with utter sincerity, “What an absolutely stunning debut novel.” Russ Thomas’s Firewatching is taut and suspenseful and a whole host of other, equally complimentary, superlatives.
Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is the story’s antihero. He’s the hard-boiled detective whose past informs who he is today, how he performs and reacts, and his flaws as well as his instincts are among the things that make him so good at what he does. Tyler is duty bound, and he does take that seriously, but he is also not averse to skirting some of the stricter technicalities of the job in order to solve a case. Tyler’s relationship to the DCI, Diane Jordan, plays into the story in a personal and professional way, which provides its share of complications, but it’s Tyler’s inclination to keep people at arm’s length that makes him both difficult to work with as well as limning him as an outlier. Tyler doesn’t expend the time or energy on making friends or influencing people, and he doesn’t seem to care. Rather than this making him an unlikable or unappealing character, however, Russ Thomas finessed all these things into a man I now want to know much more about. It also plays into some introspective observations on Tyler’s part as the case resolves.
Far from a simple murder mystery, Thomas leads readers into a story defined by secrets and intrigues, horrors and vengeance, lies of omission and commission, weaving past and present together and complicating the investigative procedural in various ways, including a cold case and what becomes the race to catch not only a killer but an arsonist as well. Who that person is, whether the murderer and a blogger known only as the Firewatcher are one and the same, and how two elderly women play into it all—amongst the various other residents who each could be culpable—is plotted out to a pitch-perfect ending which kept me on my toes and then left me both stunned and pained by the big reveal.
Simply put, there’s nothing I didn’t love about this book. Tyler’s grudging but eventual ties with his Detective Inspector Jim Doggett along with a determined young Constable Amina Rabbani, promises the potential for the Detective Sergeant to forge stronger working connections—but Russ Thomas leaves that up in the air for readers as a nice lead-in to the next book in the series. As far as the personal front goes, Tyler doesn’t seem to be looking for a relationship of any stripe, but time will tell whether he’s found what he wasn’t in search of. There are also answers forthcoming to some questions Tyler has about his father; they have been teased but unspoken, so there is much to anticipate and discover in storylines yet to come.
If you love a good mystery and procedural with plenty of twists, turns, and intrigue, Firewatching is a sure bet. This novel has neatly vaulted its sequels onto my must-read list.
You can buy Firewatching here:
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1 thought on “Review: Firewatching by Russ Thomas”
Alas, again. What a marvelous book…at another rip-off price by the publisher. $13.99 for an ebook? While I admit there are a few (VERY few) authors I will pay that price for (e.g, J.D. Robb’s In Death series, some Mercedes Lackey, the Recluce or Imager Portfolio, and David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter mysteries) but sorry, that’s far too much a gamble on an unknown-to-me author. I’m stuck with paying the outrageous prices for the named writers because I got hooked on them in the ancient, physical-copy-only days. Sorry, Mr. Thomas.